Greens Blog - July 2018
Careful what you wish for!!
It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago I was stood on the stage in the Captains Cabaret to much laughter (at least that’s what i think it was) as I created various fictitious and ridiculous weather scenarios. The “Flaming June Heatwave” section of this performance included a nightmare scenario in which all our ponds dried out and camels were sleeping in our bunkers!! Little did I know or expect at the time, how close my predictions would actually come to fruition (minus camels)!!
Heatwave and Drought
On a serious note I thought I would write this blog to help communicate to you, the members, about this recent change in the weather and it consequences.
As you will all be fully aware that having sustained 10 months of constant rain we have now turned the tables and for the past two months had very little rain (a total of 34mm). Whilst this has been a wonderful change and one which I will never complain about, it does bring its own issues.
These have been exacerbated now with the very recent “heat wave” we are presently experiencing.
The automatic irrigation system here at Penwortham is designed to supply water to the greens and tees only. This is usually more than sufficient for the average British summer here in the North West. However unfortunately when we primed the system up this spring, it became apparent that immediate investment was needed to improve the supply to the tees. This was acknowledged and approved by the Greens committee immediately. The order for these various parts has however coincided with a very high demand due to this recent dry spell and as a consequence the demand has outstripped supply and caused an unavoidable delay.
The greens have a good, if not a little temperamental supply of water. We are not alone with having issues with our irrigation system however this comes as little comfort during such a heat wave.
Water / moisture management of the greens
Following sound practices and the recommendations of the STRI, we try to maintain the moisture levels of the greens within certain parameters. This is simply to encourage a finer grass sward composition by avoiding over watering. These parameters are monitored using a hand held moisture meter.
In conjunction with daily moisture metre readings the nightly automatic irrigation programmes are carefully adjusted accordingly, with supplementary hand watering being carried out during the day. This practice does work well, however occasionally the planned programme can fail. This leads to an increased volume of hand watering during the following day.
This supplementary hand watering is essential so please be patient and understanding whilst the staff carry this it out.
There are two types of hand watering you may notice.
Hand held hose and applicator - This is carried out to target and deeply drench specific areas (hot spots) and allows us to apply water where it’s needed and avoid over watering where it isn't (STRI recommendations). This delivery method also allows us to apply a “wetting agent” at the same time.
“Syringing” - This involves a quick application of water using individual sprinkler heads during the heat of the day
This task is usually followed by the comment “I was told never to water the grass in the day”. Which in itself is correct to avoid “wet wilt”. However this process isn’t watering the plant, it’s much cleverer than that and let me explain.
This “Syringing” applies a small film of water onto the hot turf surface which is designed to begin evaporating immediately. This evaporation then creates an airflow around the grass plant thus cooling it. This cooling action then allows the plants stomata to open (will have closed due to heat stress) thus allowing the plant to respire and draw moisture from within the rootzone. This is repeated regularly across the course during very hot periods.
During such extreme weather conditions we have to change certain practices for the benefit of the course. Hopefully nobody will notice a majority of these suitable short term changes but if you do, I think it’s important for you to understand why.
Mowing frequency -
Clearly the grass growth has significantly slowed on all areas, so mowing has followed suit. To reduce the stress of the grass plant on the greens and allow them to cope better with the heat stress it has also necessary to raise the height of cut /skip a mow occasionally.
“Venting” the greens -
This week we have solid tined all the greens, this was done for a number of reasons but predominately it was done to “vent” the surface in this hot weather. This “venting” allows all water/ wetting agent applied to the surface to quickly get within the rootzone. The “vents” also allow increased gaseous exchange and cooling during the night. When we have finally been through the heat wave these “vents” with speed up the recovery of the surface and allow all applied bio-stimulants to get where they are need most. The holes created will also provide perfect nurseries for the seedlings to establish from the planned over seeding of the greens.
Making a positive from a negative -
Whilst it’s undeniable that this weather episode has been detrimental to the playing surfaces in the short term. It has given us a wonderful opportunity to hasten the change in sward composition on the greens and other areas from a high percentage Annual meadow grass to a sward that contains a lot more finer grasses. This sward transition will be beneficial in the long term and has been and remains my main goal here at Penwortham Golf Club. We aim to quicken this process even further with a heavy over seeding programme on greens, collars, approaches and tees once the weather is more conducive!
I hope this has helped answer a few questions
Don’t forget to apply your sun cream!!